What follows is a list I wrote as an appendix of God’s Purpose for Your Suffering, a new volume of sermons by Charles Spurgeon.
Why does God allow our suffering? While Scripture doesn’t speak to our individual situations, it does speak to general reasons God may allow us to enter the furnace of affliction.
Here are thirty-one biblical ways God can use your suffering for good. As you read through the reasons and corresponding Bible verses, pray for God to make the most of your trials for His glory. And rejoice, because as Charles Spurgeon says, “While he tries us with one hand he will sustain us with the other.”
31 Ways God Can Use Your Suffering for Good
1. To humble us.
“God told Israel why He allowed them to wander in the wilderness after escaping slavery in Egypt. ‘He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.'” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
“Therefore, so that I would not become arrogant, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to trouble me—so that I would not become arrogant.” (2 Corinthians 12:7)
2. To show His glory.
“Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but he was born blind so that the acts of God may be revealed through what happens to him.'” (John 9:3)
“When Jesus heard this, he said, ‘This sickness will not lead to death, but to God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.'” (John 11:4)
3. To do good.
“As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.” (Genesis 50:20)
“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…” (Romans 8:28)
4. To make us like Christ.
“…because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:29)
5. To deepen our communion with Him.
“My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)
6. To help us minister to others.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)
7. To teach us to pray “Your will be done.”
“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
“[Job] said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. May the name of the Lord be blessed!’” (Job 1:20–21)
8. To give us hope in Him.
“Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:13)
“But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired.” (Isaiah 40:31)
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33)
9. To deepen our reliance on Him, who raises the dead.
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again.” (2 Corinthians 1:8–10)
10. To remind us of the consequences of sin.
“For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
See also Genesis 3:8–24.
11. To remind us that all of creation was subjected to futility and groans for redemption.
“For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly but because of God who subjected it—in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers together until now. Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:20–23)
12. To discipline us for holiness.
“And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? ‘My son, do not scorn the Lord’s discipline or give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves and chastises every son he accepts.’ Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline?… For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:5–7, 10)
“Before I was afflicted I used to stray off, but now I keep your instructions.” (Psalm 119:67)
“It was good for me to suffer so that I might learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)
13. To manifest the life of Jesus in us.
“For we who are alive are constantly being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal body.” (2 Corinthians 4:11)
14. To provide sustaining mercies.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:6-7, 11–13)
15. To show His grace and perfect power in our weakness.
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So then, I will boast most gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may reside in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
16. To cause us to rejoice knowing the outcome of suffering: endurance, character, hope.
“Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3–5)
17. To give us joy deeper than our pain.
“My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. ” (James 1:2–4)
“Happy is the one who endures testing because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)
18. To make His special presence known.
“Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff reassure me.” (Psalm 23:4)
“Now, this is what the Lord says, the one who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: ‘Don’t be afraid, for I will protect you. I call you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I am with you; when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your deliverer.'” (Isaiah 43:1-3)
19. To help us see the preserving power of His Word.
“This is what comforts me in my trouble, for your promise revives me.” (Psalm 119:50)
“Before I was afflicted I used to stray off, but now I keep your instructions.” (Psalm 119:67)
“If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” (Psalm 119:92)
“Remember the whole way by which he has brought you these forty years through the wilderness so that he might, by humbling you, test you to see if you have it within you to keep his commandments or not. So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the Lord’s mouth.” (Deuteronomy 8:2–3)
20. To achieve for us an eternal glory.
“For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Charles Spurgeon: “Yes, dear friends, the Lord often sends us greater trials than others, because he means to qualify us for greater enjoyments. If you want to make a pool capable of holding more water, you dig it out, do you not? And many a man has been dug and enlarged by affliction. The enlargements of trial enable us to hold more grace and more glory.”
21. To know what is in our hearts.
“Remember the whole way by which he has brought you these forty years through the wilderness so that he might, by humbling you, test you to see if you have it within you to keep his commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
“This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold—gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away—and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6–7)
Spurgeon: “We sometimes fancy that we have strong faith when, indeed, our faith is very weak; and how are we to know whether it be weak or strong till it be tried?”
22. To help us take unrepentant sin and the Lord’s Supper more seriously.
“For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead. But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:27–31)
23. To teach us the blessing of suffering for the name of Jesus.
“So they left the council rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” (Acts 5:41)
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad, because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.” (Matthew 5:11–12)
24. To show the unbreakable power of His love for us.
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-38)
25. To remind us of the cost of discipleship.
“Then Jesus called the crowd, along with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me and because of the gospel will save it.'” (Mark 8:34–35)
“For this finds God’s favor, if because of conscience toward God someone endures hardships in suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if you sin and are mistreated and endure it? But if you do good and suffer and so endure, this finds favor with God. For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:19–21)
“Now in fact all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
26. To bring repentance.
“Now there were some present on that occasion who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. He answered them, ‘Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered these things? No, I tell you! But unless you repent, you will all perish as well! Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them, do you think they were worse offenders than all the others who live in Jerusalem? No, I tell you! But unless you repent you will all perish as well!'” (Luke 13:1–4)
27. To make us thankful.
“Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6–7)
28. To make us content.
“I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.” (Philippians 4:12)
29. To remind us to fight with spiritual weapons.
“For though we live as human beings, we do not wage war according to human standards, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3–5)
30. To deepen our longing for the glorious, suffering-free future we have in Christ.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain, for the former things have ceased to exist.” (Revelation 21:4)
“For I consider that our present sufferings cannot even be compared to the coming glory that will be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
“But rejoice in the degree that you have shared in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice and be glad.” (1 Peter 4:13)
31. To strengthen our faith in the unknown.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those that are revealed belong to us and our descendants forever, so that we might obey all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Take Heart, Dear Christian
God is at work in your suffering. You may not know exactly how on this side of eternity, but He is. As John Piper says, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
The proper response to God’s providence in our suffering, even in the unknown, is worship:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how unfathomable his ways! … For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33, 36)
May God fill you with hope and faithful perseverance as you seek Him.
This resource by Kevin P. Halloran is featured in the appendix of God’s Purpose for Your Suffering by Charles Spurgeon.